In later life, when he had moved far away to Connecticut, the river would return to Twain. He found that its silty waters seeped into his writing, providing the inspiration not only for “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and those of Tom Sawyer, but also for “Life on the Mississippi”, which began as a series of sketches for Atlantic Monthly, but was finally published as an account of his time working as a riverboat pilot. Both a homage to the beauty of the river and an opportunity to recount some outlandish tales, it allowed him to pay some dues and to acknowledge that it was the Mississippi that had lubricated his imagination: “When I find a well-drawn character in fiction or biography I generally take a warm personal interest in him,” he wrote, “for the reason that I have known him before—met him on the river.”
Jun 4, 2010
In A RIVER RUNS THROUGH HIM | More Intelligent Life, Laura Barton explores what's left of Twain's river.